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Old 02-28-2019, 06:45 PM   #1
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Transient Vessel not registered in any state/USCG Documented

Here's one for smarter minds than I.

If my home port is Bellingham WA marked on the transom and on the USCG Documentation but the boat never touches Washington waters. Am I correct that I don't have to pay registration taxes in Washington State.

Also if I don't stay in any other state long enough to be considered a resident (each state is different time wise). Am I correct that I wouldn't have to buy registration at all ever ?

I assume I could travel (not for commercial use) the Great Loop, Canada and the Bahamas without ever registering the boat anywhere as long as the boat traveled as a transient USCG documented vessel in each state or country. I would be interested to hear from a person that has accomplished this feet.
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Old 02-28-2019, 06:55 PM   #2
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Donít bring it into Michigan. They will ticket you.
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Old 02-28-2019, 07:56 PM   #3
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Don't most tax dodgers set up a fake corporation in Delaware and register the boat under the phony business? Home port: Dover, Delaware.
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Old 02-28-2019, 08:05 PM   #4
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There are a multitude of US documented boats cruising all around the world with no state registration. As long as you stay under the 50 state's (all somewhat different) transient visitor limits you can avoid state taxes and registrations. But you may be subject to "cruising permits" or such levied by various states. And, if you are moored in any particular state don't be surprised if a county sheriff deputy tickets you or questions your status.
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Old 02-28-2019, 08:15 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Nocanvas View Post
Here's one for smarter minds than I.

If my home port is Bellingham WA marked on the transom and on the USCG Documentation but the boat never touches Washington waters. Am I correct that I don't have to pay registration taxes in Washington State.

Also if I don't stay in any other state long enough to be considered a resident (each state is different time wise). Am I correct that I wouldn't have to buy registration at all ever ?

I assume I could travel (not for commercial use) the Great Loop, Canada and the Bahamas without ever registering the boat anywhere as long as the boat traveled as a transient USCG documented vessel in each state or country. I would be interested to hear from a person that has accomplished this feet.
So where is the vessel now? BTW, our documented vessel has never had a state registration of any sort.
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Old 02-28-2019, 08:26 PM   #6
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And, if you are moored in any particular state don't be surprised if a county sheriff deputy tickets you or questions your status.
This did indeed happen at a Michigan marina last summer, although it was triggered by an uninformed marine police officer who thought that the absence of numbers on the bow constituted an illegal status. The marina manager explained that the boats in question were federally documented and bow numbers were not required. The embarrassed officer didn't pursue it any further, but if he had been better informed, he probably would have asked for registration papers for the home port State. In this instance all of the boats in question also had State registration.
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Old 02-28-2019, 08:49 PM   #7
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This did indeed happen at a Michigan marina last summer, although it was triggered by an uninformed marine police officer who thought that the absence of numbers on the bow constituted an illegal status. The marina manager explained that the boats in question were federally documented and bow numbers were not required. The embarrassed officer didn't pursue it any further, but if he had been better informed, he probably would have asked for registration papers for the home port State. In this instance all of the boats in question also had State registration.
There are states that don't require state registration if the boat is documented. Alaska is one such place. As such no registration numbers on the bow.
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Old 02-28-2019, 08:58 PM   #8
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you are entirely correct in that is you are truly traveling then you do not need to register your boat except possibly your home state if it has registration.

You also do not need to pay any tax in any state, but be careful. As you indicated each state has itís own definition of when your boat falls under their rules.

Just be cognizant of these rules and timelines and youíll be good to go.
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Old 02-28-2019, 09:01 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Nocanvas View Post
Here's one for smarter minds than I.

If my home port is Bellingham WA marked on the transom and on the USCG Documentation but the boat never touches Washington waters. Am I correct that I don't have to pay registration taxes in Washington State.

Also if I don't stay in any other state long enough to be considered a resident (each state is different time wise). Am I correct that I wouldn't have to buy registration at all ever ?

I assume I could travel (not for commercial use) the Great Loop, Canada and the Bahamas without ever registering the boat anywhere as long as the boat traveled as a transient USCG documented vessel in each state or country. I would be interested to hear from a person that has accomplished this feet.

I think the answer is "yes, but.."


Most states have visitor rules that welcome you for some period of time provided you are properly registered in your place of principal use. "No place" is unlikely to be an acceptable place of principal use, so you need to pick "some place". We were faced with exactly this on our last boat, and picked our state of residency and followed their rules for documented vessels, which conveniently were that no state registration is required. So we were unregistered in any state, but could show that our chosen place of principal use did not require state registration for documented vessels, so we were compliant with their rules.


I think that's a perfectly viable strategy, but I do thing you need to pick some place and follow their rules, and have some sort of justification for why you picked the "home port" that you did. If your residency is WA, and the hailing port is in WA, is suggests you should be following WA rules which require state registration. But if you are claiming to be following some other state's rules that don't require state registration, I think you are inviting a challenge, or at least a prolonged debate with whoever might stop you.


If you want to establish some justification for following a particular state's rules that don't require state registration, it seems wise to establish some nexus of some sort in that state. One possibility would be to establish an LLC in that state to own the boat. Then the boat is owned by a "resident" of that state. And if the hailing port is also from that state, it helps build the case, even though the hailing port is really of no actual significance.
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Old 02-28-2019, 09:06 PM   #10
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There are states that don't require state registration if the boat is documented. Alaska is one such place. As such no registration numbers on the bow.
I don't believe any of the States that do require registration for resident vessels that are documented require numbers on the bow. But they do require a sticker somewhere on the boat.
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Old 02-28-2019, 09:10 PM   #11
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The embarrassed officer didn't pursue it any further, but if he had been better informed, he probably would have asked for registration papers for the home port State.
With that better information, what would he have done if the response was, "Yea, I am violating <some other state's law>, so please don't tell them because I have nothing to show you." Or, better yet, "I am a resident of <any other state>, and my state doesn't require state registration under my circumstances." Then what does the better informed officer do?
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Old 02-28-2019, 09:15 PM   #12
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There are states that don't require state registration if the boat is documented. Alaska is one such place. As such no registration numbers on the bow.
Good info on AK, Tom.
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Old 02-28-2019, 09:35 PM   #13
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With that better information, what would he have done if the response was, "Yea, I am violating <some other state's law>, so please don't tell them because I have nothing to show you." Or, better yet, "I am a resident of <any other state>, and my state doesn't require state registration under my circumstances." Then what does the better informed officer do?
Barring some set procedure, I would expect the informed police officer to advise the "other state" that he has noted a vessel that is home ported but not registered in their state, that they are potentially missing tax revenue that could be used for marine law enforcement/safety (for example), and provide them with the name and address of the (potential) tax dodger...regardless of the state of residence. If the marine police officer is well informed, he/she will know which states do not require registration.
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Old 02-28-2019, 09:43 PM   #14
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I don't believe any of the States that do require registration for resident vessels require numbers on the bow. But they do require a sticker somewhere on the boat.
California requires numbers on the bow unless CG documented.

The OP can absolutely do what he says, but perhaps not with WA as the home port. Depends on if WA requires registration for vessels never in the state - it seems like they would have a jurisdictional issue if they did. What you tell the coast guard and paint on the transom for you home port is almost without effect or consequence. I've seen 100' boats which claimed landlocked midwestern cities as home port.
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Old 02-28-2019, 09:49 PM   #15
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California requires numbers on the bow unless CG documented.
Right. I was thinking in terms of a documented boat, but didn't say so.
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Old 02-28-2019, 09:56 PM   #16
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California requires numbers on the bow unless CG documented. ...
If you are docked at a marina in California on any January 1, don't be surprised if the respective county will assess property tax.
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Old 02-28-2019, 10:11 PM   #17
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If you are docked at a marina in California on any January 1, don't be surprised if the respective county will assess property tax.

Two different issues... property tax vs registration. Although in Washington state registration is considered a Use Tax.


We had a boat in California for 6 years that had no state registration.. but it was documented.


Every year we got a bill for personal property tax on the boat.


Washington dings the crap out of us for state registration.


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Old 02-28-2019, 10:37 PM   #18
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If you're not docked at a marina for longer periods, most states won't bother you. If you have a rented slip, other than transient dockage, most states require reporting at least yearly. If you have a private dock or have some arrangement to dock at a non marina, the state will probably miss you.

Some states are more aggressive at collecting taxes from boaters in their quest to tax the evil rich. If you have a larger boat, in their eyes, you are rich and deserve the taxes.
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Old 02-28-2019, 10:58 PM   #19
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How many dollars is this saving?
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Old 03-01-2019, 01:12 AM   #20
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I donít think Washington cares what is listed as your home port on the USCG documentation. They do care where you keep the boat. If you keep the boat in WA over a certain length of time, they will care very much. IIRC some states will require that you have a legitimate state registration or they will require it of you if you are in their state at all.

This subject comes up a lot. If a boater really is transient and never stays more than a month in any state really doesnít have a state to register the boat. That is fine. However, I certainly wouldnít regulate my cruising life in such a way to avoid state registration.
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